Preserving the slope is a gift to passing boaters

Merit Award: Cutler Anderson Architects, Bainbridge Island, WA (206/842-4710)

Challenge: Insert a home unobtrusively into a bluff overlooking the ocean. Architect Jim Cutler explains: “We want people to say, ‘Look how beautiful the land is. And look, there’s a house there.'”

Solution: The house is almost invisible, and the cliff retains its silhouette. What makes this architectural sorcery possible is the way the stone terrace and the sod roof extend the cliff’s general shape and its palette of natural materials. The roof also mirrors the surrounding trees’ wind-sculpted angular forms.

Special effects:
• The plan is elegant in its simplicity: three distinct rectangular “buildings” housing the great room, the master suite, and the bunkhouse, respectively, are sheltered by one roof. The structures are set at different angles, allowing each to capture a unique view. The overhang shades the rhythmic glass façade, which lowers the home’s profile even more. According to Cutler, “The more complex a building becomes, the more it draws attention to itself.” This was an attempt to do the opposite.

• The spaces between the “buildings” are open to allow access to the terrace from the entrance without passing through the house.

• The great room opens to the terrace through 8-foot-tall sliding glass panels. The terrace is several steps below the house to maximize views from inside.